Our columnist remembers a highly remarkable — and remarkably ungrammatical — advertising campaign.
At some point in the late 1990s, I was walking down a street in New York City, when I saw an advertisement that really impressed me. Printed on a gigantic poster displayed on the side of a building was the image of John Lennon and Yoko Ono along with two words: “Think Different.”
This poster was part of an advertising campaign for Apple computers. The ads in this campaign would show a picture of a highly influential person, like Mahatma Gandhi, Pablo Picasso or Muhammad Ali, and printed next to that person would be the words: “Think Different.” The message was a strong one: a person who purchases an Apple product thinks outside the box and dares to dream.
The campaign, which ran from 1997 to 2002, was hugely popular and won many awards. Its only drawback, though, is that the slogan “Think Different” is, strictly speaking, grammatically incorrect.
In English, as in German, certain parts of speech are called adverbs. Adverbs “modify” — which is just another word for “describe” — verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. In German, adverbs and adjectives look the same, but in English, adjectives and adverbs are usually different. For example, in the sentence, “He is always very careful,” “careful” is the adjective. In “He always walks carefully,” “carefully” — with “-ly at the end” — is the adverb.
Because the word “think” in “Think Different” is a verb, you need an adverb to modify it. In other words, to be grammatical, the Apple ad should have read: “Think Differently.”
Why, then, did Apple spend huge sums of money on an ad campaign, the slogan of which was not grammatically correct?
My theory is that dropping the “-ly” plays into the whole idea of thinking differently, as the very slogan itself is written in a maverick-like way. By asking people to “Think Different,” Apple was effectively saying, “We know that it should be ‘Think Differently,’ but we’re going to drop the ‘-ly’ because we take risks and are different.”
More importantly, according to his biography, Steve Jobs insisted on using the word “different” because “think differently” simply would not have had the same meaning to him. He said he wanted people to imagine that the word “different” in “Think Different” was being used more like a noun, as in “Think Progress,” “Think Innovation,” “Think Creativity.” Whatever the case, the idea worked.
Nowadays, Apple may sell its products with ads that show us the sleekness of its phones or the niftiness of its watches, but I’ll never forget the days when the company presented us with some truly remarkable people and asked us to think different.
dare [de&r] sich trauen drawback [(dro:bäk] Nachteil maverick [(mäverik] unkonventionell niftiness [(niftines] ifml. Eleganz, Raffinesse purchase [(p§:tses] erwerben, kaufen sleekness [(sli:knes] Schnittigkeit
CHAD SMITH Originally from New York City, Chad Smith is a freelance journalist and English teacher who now lives in Hamburg.